In his disputation against the Anabaptists Henry Ainsworth moves next to consider if the scriptures command the baptism of the infants of those who profess faith. Here two commandments for the baptising of infants are set forth: the one given of old to our fathers, and the other given by Christ.
Note: The writer has updated the spelling, grammar and language of the original work and it is sincerely hoped that such revisions have not detracted from the intent or meaning.
Command One - Given of old to our fathers.
That which was once commanded of God, and never by him called back, is now still to be done; as it is written, What thing soever I command you, observe to do it, Deut. 12.32. But God commanded the outward seal of his covenant of grace to be given to the infants of his people, as in Gen. 17:12,13. He that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, &c. and my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant. And this commandment touching the substance of it, and outward sealing of the covenant, hath never by him been abrogated. Therefore it is still to be continued, and our infants (by virtue of that commandment) are to have the seal of God’s covenant.
The common objection that this proof is not from Christ’s testament, but from Moses writings, is of no weight. For Moses wrote of Christ, John 5:46. The Apostles said none other things then those which the Prophets and Moses did say should come, Act. 26.22. Christ came not to destroy the law or the Prophets, but to fulfil, Math. 5:17. Paul proves our justification by faith in Christ from Abraham’s example written by Moses, as written not for his sake alone, but for us, Rom. 4:3-24. Therefore the example of Abraham’s infants circumcised, is written for us also. To manifest this reason more fully, I lay down these particulars:
(i) That the covenant then made with Abraham was the covenant of the Gospel, which we now have.
(ii) That circumcision the seal of the covenant then, and baptism the seal of the covenant now, are one and the same in substance. The first is proved thus, Paul says, The Scripture foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the Gospel unto Abraham, In thee shall all nations be blessed, Gal. 3:8. Again, when circumcision was instituted, the covenant was, Thou shalt be a father of many nations, &c. Gen. 17:4-5 this promise (as belonging to the faith of Christ) is applied to our state under the Gospel, Rom. 4:13,16,17 and is by Paul there opposed to the Law. Moreover the covenant with Abraham was, that the Lord would be a God to him and to his seed after him, Gen. 17:7 this promise implies blessedness to him and them; for Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, Ps. 33:12 and this blessedness comes on none by the Law, Rom. 4:15, Gal. 3:10-12. and that he should be a God unto us, and we his people, is the sum of the Gospel, Heb. 8:10, 2. Cor 6:16, Rev. 21.3.
The difference between the fathers and us, is, that they had the Gospel in promise; we have the same Gospel in performance, Luke 1:69, 70, 72.73. &c. Act. 13:32-33. & 26:6. They believed in Christ that WAS to come; we believe in Christ who IS come: Their faith and ours is one in substance, Heb 11 and Gal. 3.9. That circumcision and baptism are also one in substance (though differing in outward sign) is thus manifested. Circumcision was the sign of faith and holiness, Rom. 4:11 & 2:29, Col. 2:11, Deut 10:16. Baptism is the sign of faith and holiness, Act. 8:37-38, Rom. 6.:3-4 &c. Circumcision was the first sign and seal of entering into the covenant: Baptism is so now. We now being buried with Christ in baptism, are said to be circumcised in him, Col 2:11-12. which plainly manifest them to be one and the same: even as their other sacramental signs, are said to be the same that we now have, in respect of the things signified, 1. Cor. 10.1-4, 1 Cor. 5:7-8. Forasmuch then as the covenant with Abraham and with us, and the seal of the covenant then and now, are one in substance: it follows, that the commandment then to give infants the seal of the covenant, being never repealed, binds us to give them the seal of the covenant at this day. The exceptions which the adversaries make of the difference between circumcision and baptism, shall be answered after in their place.
Command Two - the command given by Christ
The second commandment for baptising of infants, is in Mark. 16:15. Go preach the Gospel to every creature; he that believeth and is baptised, shall be saved. Math. 28:19. Go teach all nations, baptising them, &c.
In this commission of Christ are two things, the preaching of the Gospel to every creature, to all nations; and the sealing of the same by baptism. The Gospel belonged to infants, & they are necessarily implied in the first: therefore baptism belonged to infants, and they are as necessarily implied in the later. Christ bids them proclaim or preach the Gospel: but what the Gospel is, is not here declared, we must gather it from other scriptures. The Gospel (or Evangelie) is the glad tidings or joyful declaration that the promise which was made unto the Fathers, God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children: the promise, (I say) concerning Christ, and the redemption of the world by him, as these scriptures teach, Acts 13:32-33. Luke 1:54-55, 69-73. &c. Act. 2:38-39. & 26:22-23, Luke 4:18-21. So the Gospel (which is the good tidings of the fulfilling of the promise) is as large as the promise was: whereupon, not in the aforementioned scriptures only, but in many other places, the Apostles refer the Gospel to the promise (or promises) made of old, as, It is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed: Rom. 4:16 and Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise, Gal. 4:28. and, Christ was a minister of the circumcision, for the truth of God, to confirm the promises (made) unto the fathers: and that the Gentiles might glorify God for mercy, Rom. 15:8-9. and, That the promise by faith of Jesus Christ, might be given to them that believe, Gal. 3.22. and, Paul an Apostle, &c. according to the promise of life, which is in Christ Jesus, 2. Tim. 1:1. and many the like.
Not in general only, but the particular promises at several times, are showed to be accomplished in the Gospel;
1. as the promise to Adam, Rom. 16:20. from Gen. 3:15;
2. as the promise to Abraham, Luke 1:55, 73, and Rom. 4:16-18;
3, as the promise to David, Luke. 1:69-70, and Acts. 2:30-31
4. as the promise to Israel by Moses, Samuel, and other Prophets, Acts. 3:22,24-25 and Luke 1.70;
so that all the promises of God are yea and Amen in Christ, 2. Cor. 1:20. And for the point in controversy, the promise of grace and salvation to Abraham and to his seed, Gen. 17:7. is by the Gospel shewed to be confirmed, Luk. 1.55, Act. 2.38-39, and Gal. 3:14, 16, 29. But the promise to Abraham’s seed implied his infants, Gen. 17:7, 10, 12, therefore the Gospel (which is the complement of that promise) implies our infants: and so the Apostle said, the promise is to you and to your children, Act. 2:39. And the sign and seal of the promise was given to Abraham’s children in infancy, Gen. 17:10, 12, therefore it belongs to our children in their infancy: and we are said to be the children of promise as Isaac was Gal. 4:28. But Isaac was the child of promise in his infancy, and had then the seal of the promise in his infancy, when he was but eight days old, Acts 7:8, wherefore we also in our infancy are children of the promise, and have right to the seal of the covenant even then, or else we are not as Isaac was. And thus Christ commanding the Gospel to be preached, commanded the fulfilling of the promises to be preached, even all and every one of the promises, without excepting any: and so commanded the promise of grace, and accomplishment of it to the seed of the faithful even in their infancy to be preached. Likewise commanding the seal of the covenant to be applied unto all within the promise, as freely and generally now as ever it was of old, not excepting infants: he commanded infants to be sealed by baptism, as they were sealed before by circumcision. And seeing all believers are by his commission to be baptised: the infants of the Church being believers (in respect of the beginning of faith, though not actually) as I have formerly proved, they are also to be baptised by virtue of Christ’s commission, Mark. 16 & Matt. 28. that so the promises unto the fathers may be confirmed, and the Gentiles (as well as the circumcision, that is, the Jews) may glorify God for his mercy, Rom. 15:8, 9.